Sketch by Jack Chalker

No One Will Believe You

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The 2/3rd MAC Under

Australian Command in Malaya


As previously mentioned, it is unclear when the 3 sections of the 2/3rd MAC came under Australian operational control. What is obvious is that from the December 8, 1941 up until the 6-10th of January 1942, all elements of the unit were in ad hoc arrangements supporting many different British, Malay and Indian units (Indian 11th Div, 36th IFA) in response to the previously mentioned Japanese actions. It seems logical that the MAC would have remained active, but became operationally linked to the AIF in response to the landings of the Japanese at Selangor which directly threatened Kuala Lumpur between the 4-10th of January. The Indian 11th Division was effectively destroyed and withdrawn to Jahore around this time after the rout at the Slim river.

From the outset the MAC in Malaya was technically considered a 2nd echelon transport section, but all sections ended up being drivers/medics and supporting advanced field dressing stations in frontline areas and under constant bombing, mortaring and strafing requiring the unit to consult with rubber farmers who showed the drivers where to drive through plantations to avoid using the roads which were highly dangerous. Successions of digging slit trenches to escape fire then retreat became the standard practice. Casualties from all units were huge, particularly in Indian units as mentioned previously. On many occasions’ casualties had to be left with fatal consequences, as the Japanese were known to regularly blow-up ambulances, despite conspicuous attempts to highlight them as ambulances with red crosses. 

Under the Australian army’s General Bennett’s command, or ‘Westforce’, units of the Australian 27th infantry brigade (the 2/26th Battalion, 2/29th Battalion, 2/30th Battalions) were mobilised and ordered to form a defensive line in the Muar/Segamat/Gemas area in the first week of January 1942 in response to the Japanese outflanking landings that directly threatened Malacca. Elements of the Australian 10th AGH had to be evacuated from Malacca due to the speed of the advance, which would have probably been done by the 2/3rd MAC. The 2/3rd MAC involvement from this point was to probably support the 26th, 29th and 30th Australian battalions and any others in their fighting withdrawal to Singapore.


The 26th Battalion, AIF

Around the 10th of January 1942, the 27th Brigade took up a position in the Segamat sector, alongside British and Indian troops. The 2/26th Battalion was located at the Paya Lang Estate between Gemas and Batu Anam. As the Japanese attempted to outflank the Allied positions west of Gemas at Muar, the 2/30th Battalion conducted a successful ambush, and ‘Westforce’ began the withdrawal back to Singapore Island; during which the 2/26th Battalion took part in a number of rearguard actions. Actions were fought at the Namazi Estate, Forty-Mile Peg and the Thirty-One Mile Peg. Of these, perhaps the most significant action came at the Thirty-One Mile Peg, where 16 Platoon, under Lieutenant William Magarry, conducted a bayonet charge near Ayer Hitam.


The 29th Battalion AIF

The 2/29th Battalion did not see action until the middle of January, 1942 when the Japanese began to advance into Johore. As the situation on the western side of the peninsula continually worsened, the 2/29th, along with the 2/19th Battalion AIF, were sent to reinforce the 45th Indian Infantry Brigade which was fighting around Muar. Arriving at Bakri on the 17th January 1942, the Australians established strong defensive positions and on the following day with assistance from an anti-tank regiment, repulsed a heavy Japanese attack that had been supported by armour. No mean feat.

As the Japanese probed for the 2/29th Battalion's flanks, their position grew increasing tenuous and they were in danger of being surrounded. The arrival of the 2/19th allowed the 2/29th to withdraw, but further flanking moves by the Japanese cut off the withdrawal route. Fighting their way through several Japanese road blocks and almost under constant air attack, they found the river crossing at Parit Sulong in Japanese hands and despite several efforts to wrest control of it, the combined Australian and Indian force had to break track and head into the jungle in an effort to reach Yong Peng, which was still in British hands. In the process, they had to leave their wounded behind with a handful of medical personnel, trusting that they would be cared for by the Japanese. In the end, all but two of the 135 men were executed by their captors at Parit Sulong.

Heavily depleted by the withdrawal, the 2/29th was withdrawn back to Singapore; 130 men that successfully completed the trek back to Yong Peng were joined by a draft of 500 fresh replacements, many of whom were very inexperienced having been rushed from in Australia with very little training. The battalion was reconstituted with 19 new officers amongst the reinforcements, but was never the same after Parit Sulong massacre.


The 30th Battalion AIF

The 2/30th Battalion participated in the battles at Gemencheh Bridge, Gemas and Ayer Hitam. The fighting around the Gemencheh Bridge was their most significant action. Taking place on the 14th January 1942, it was the first major action undertaken by Australian forces during the fighting in Malaya. As the Japanese streamed south towards Johore, the battalion was tasked with carrying out an ambush around a cutting on the Gemas–Tampin Road, and to inflict heavy casualties before withdrawing.

Gemas Ambush

The ambush proved a considerable success, resulting in 600 to 1000 casualties for the Japanese and the destruction of several tanks and armoured vehicles.


Nevertheless, the 30th were steadily forced back off the Malay Peninsula until withdrawing across the causeway to Singapore Island.





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[No One Will Believe] [Introduction] [Alfs Enlistment Record] [Overview 2/3rd MAC] [With The Indians] [2/3rd MAC under AIF] [2/3rd MAC in Singapore] [The Aftermath] [Alf in 'K' Force] [Toward The End] [Alfs Demob Record] [Alf's Photo Album] [Thai-Burma Trip 2019] [References]


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